Buck Bond Group
Reducing illness, boosting recovery in the workplace

Reducing illness, boosting recovery in the workplace

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As organizations move from pandemic, inflation, and supply chain crises toward recovery, they face many challenges while trying to rebuild.

The triple threat to employee health

The latest concerns for population health this fall and winter include an uptick of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a rapid increase in influenza cases, and multiple strains of COVID-19 causing illness. This combination of respiratory infection “variant soup,” along with the pandemic-weary public, has its effect in the workplace. There may be an increase in the amount of sick leave and family leave, and/or an increase in the medical costs for doctor visits, urgent care, telemedicine, and possibly hospitalizations. It may be quite a setback for employers who felt like they were beginning their steps to back-to-new normal.

The cost to the company

On top of this triple respiratory-related illness threat, self-insured employers face a potentially looming price hike in the cost of the COVID-19 vaccination. In early 2023, federal health emergency funding is expected to end. Recently, Pfizer announced that it will increase the price of its COVID-19 vaccine from $30 per dose to $110 – $130 per dose when the U.S. government’s contract to buy the shots expires.

While the question and impact of initial cost to employers is important, the vaccine has demonstrated that its benefits far outweigh its price tag. There are a number of reasons why promoting vaccinations makes financial sense: Vaccines can help to avoid more costly treatments, like hospitalization, and may help reduce disability claims resulting from long COVID. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the biggest predictors of getting the COVID-19 vaccination and subsequent boosters are age, political affiliation, household income, and education level. While employers certainly cannot address political affiliation, other predictive factors such as earnings, residential location, age, and education level are available to them.

Tactics to better health

With those variables in mind, there are stay-well policies employers can continue to promote.

They can provide paid time off for obtaining vaccinations and boosters, as well as financial incentives for obtaining them. They should encourage employees who aren’t feeling well to take sick time and stay home.

In the workplace itself, employers can provide visual prompts such as signage reminding employees to wash hands regularly, providing facilities with full soap dispensers, ample towels, and hand lotion. Putting social distancing floor decals in place, hand sanitizers in high-traffic locations, and touchless garbage cans and door openers.

When companies invest in the health of their employees it is an investment in a positive workplace culture. These basic, fairly simple tactics help to reduce the cost of sickness in the workplace and contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.